When sharing links with friends, long URLs can cause issues as they take up a lot of space in tweets and text messages, and can wrap across multiple lines in emails. You can use one of the many free URL shortening services to turn any URL into a very short one. These will redirect to the original page. The danger in using URL shorteners is that you can’t be certain where a link leads. But browser extensions and the URL shortening services can help with that.



Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today’s episode let me show you how and why to use URL shorteners.

Here is the basic idea. Say you want to send somebody an URL. You want to send it to them in a message or an email and you notice that the URL is very long.

Like, for instance, let’s take my own page here of Printable Keyboard Shortcut pdf and you can see it is a pretty long URL. Now this isn’t too bad. But you know you’ve seen these URLs that are just huge. They run off the field here and they are massive with all sorts of odd characters in them and things.

So when you copy and paste this into an email it is pretty long and it may actually wrap around onto two lines. You don’t want that. You want to have something simpler and shorter and that’s where URL shorteners come in.

Using a URL shortener is pretty easy and there are tons of them out there. The one I am going to use today is Goggle’s own which is goo.gl and all you have to do is to go to this website and then you paste in the URL here, so I’m going to paste in that long URL, and hit Shorten URL. It is going to ask me to enter in this here and once I do that I get a short URL here. You can see it is much shorter than the original over here. I can just Command C to copy and now if I open up a new tab here in the browser I paste it in. You can see there is the short URL at the top and I’m going to hit return.

You can see it redirects through Goggle to the original page. It doesn’t matter how long this original URL was the shortened URL is always going to be about this length.

Another advantage to shortened URLs is a lot of times you can track them. It is true therefore that the goo.gl service you can log in with your Goggle account and then create these shortened URLs and then see a list of the ones you have created and how many times people have clicked on them.

So say if you want to send out a link to something or post a link in a blog or a Facebook post or something you can then go back later on and see if three or four people clicked on it or maybe hundreds of people clicked on it.

Now an even easier way to create shortened URLs is to add a Safari extension to do so. If I go into extension.apple.com and I look through the categories here I can see there is a whole category for URL shorteners. You can see there is a whole bunch of them here and I can easily install them. They make creating the shortened URLs very easy.

They all work in slightly different ways and they use different services. Some of them are extensions that are for their own service. So they work for their own service whereas other ones here will actually use Goggle or some other service or even give you a list of URL shorteners that you can use.

So you can look through these and see if any of those would be something you would want to add to Safari.

Now one problem with shortened URLs is that they mask the destination. So, for instance, if you are sharing a link with a friend and you shorten it it is not really a problem. You are friends and you trust each other that you are sending a real link.

But say you are at a website that you don’t trust and you see a shortened URL there and you wonder if I click on this am I actually going to go where I think I’ll be going to or is it going to send me somewhere else. Now usually this is not a problem but there are ways to figure this out.

For instance, you can look at the service whether it is Goggle’s service or Bitly or something like that and you can take that shortened URL and usually go there and they have a way to lengthen it to show you the actual URL. So you can kind of check it.

Also, there are extensions you can use, extensions you can install, in Safari. I’ve installed two such extensions and now when I get this link here, I roll over it and I see a tool tip there that shows me the actual URL and at the bottom if you will notice there is also a link there that showed me exactly what the URL was. So even though it was a short URL using the Bitly service I can expand it or check it just before I click on it.

I have these installed as extensions here. One is the long URL for Safari extension and the other is Ultimate Status Bar. These have advantages and disadvantages on whether or not you want to install them but you should know that there is the possibility of using these two or more extensions out there that will help you with this if this is a problem you run into a lot.

Here is kind of a neat thing. I’m using the Goggle service or I see a link that is for it I can paste it into the browser window there and put a plus sign after it and when I go to it instead of taking me to the URL it is going to take me to this page that tells me about the URL. It even gives me the statistics here, how many clicks there have been and you can see the expanded URL right there. So you get all sorts of data, which is useful if you are the one that created it, but also useful if you are the one that is about to go to the link.

So URL shorteners are very useful to use especially if you like sharing links a lot with friends or sharing them in Facebook or on your blog.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.


3 Responses to “MacMost Now 903: Using URL Shorteners”

  1. Greg says:

    Thank you, very useful

  2. Karen says:

    Thank you for this great and useful tip. I sent family a URL by SMS today and was concerned about it’s length. I didn’t know URL shortening was possible – thanks again!

  3. Todd says:

    Awesome! I’ve been wondering how this url shortening thing works for a while now. Thanks.

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